What is spam?
Spam is simply unsolicited email, sent out to thousands or millions of addresses at once. Mostly it is just advertising, in which case it is a nuisance rather than a threat. However, some spam email may contain malware (viruses and other malicious programs) or links to fake banking websites etc, in an attempt to obtain your credit card details or Internet banking logon.
How can I recognise spam?
The picture below shows a spam mail, in which we have ringed in red the elements that make it easy to recognise. Firstly, the sender's name (Hadley Haile) doesn't correspond to the name in the email address (Adrian). Secondly, the sender's address, the reply address, and the "unsubscribe" address are all different domains (the bit of the address after the @ symbol). Finally, two of the three addresses are from free mail services (Gmail and Yahoo), which no serious business would use.
What should I do if I get a spam email?
Firstly, DON’T reply to it. The mail was doubtless sent out to thousands of randomly created possible email addresses; replying to the mail tells the spammers that your address is a genuine current email address, and so they will simply send you more spam. Just delete any spam mails that you receive. If you think an email you have received is spam, DON'T click on links in it, or open any attachments (please click on the "Phishing" and "Email attachments" links on the left for more details).
Can I stop spam emails being sent to me?
If you use a web-based email service like Hotmail, Yahoo or Googlemail, which you access through Internet Explorer or other web browser, you are dependent on the service provider to block spam emails for you. However, it may be possible to configure the options of the service to reduce the amount of spam that gets through to your inbox. If you use an email program such as Outlook, Outlook Express or Windows Mail, it is possible to install an antispam program that will filter out spam messages for you. If you are worried about the amount of spam mail you receive, ask an IT enthusiast or professional whether anything can be done to prevent it.